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Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Holidays
Legends

Hunting for the Wendigo

The Informant is 20 years old, a junior at USC studying Critical Studies in Film, and is from Plymouth, Minnesota.

Him: On the first day of winter, well, we live in Minnesota, so, by the first day of winter it’s already snowing there. On the first day of winter, we hunt for the Wendigo.

Me: What’s a Wendigo?

Him: A Wendigo is like a giant, werewolf-bigfoot-giant-bear creature, and it only comes out on the first day of winter to prey upon the goats and cattle of the area.

Me: Is it real?

Him: That’s the thing! Maybe! But probably not. The tradition started with my Grandpa who really, really believed that the Wendigo was real.

Me: What’s its significance? Why is it so important?

Him: Its meat is supposed to give you long-lasting life. So, on the first day of winter my Grandpa would go out into the woods and try to hunt it. The Wendigo. But, of course, he’d always come home empty-handed. But my Grandma was always there waiting for him and would make him cider for when he came home. And she’d put some nutmeg in it as a ‘secret ingredient’.

Me: So, does your family now like go out and hunt together?

Him: Nowadays, on the first day of winter, my family just likes to go out and appreciate nature. We don’t hunt anything, but we like to go to different national parks for the day, go camping, stuff like that, and just have some general family bonding. We’ve been doing it since probably forever. But we still come home and drink cider!

Analysis:

This example shows the ways in which tradition can change in a household throughout it’s performances. The variation of ways in which the Informant’s family has hunted for the Wendigo are drastic, yet they still hold importance to the family. Even the intentions behind the tradition have changed over the decades.

The ways in which the tradition has changed are probably influenced by the way that society has also changed over the years. Hunting used to be much more popular 80 years ago, but due to hunting laws, registering weapons, attaining of permits, etc., hunting becomes a different type of process. Somewhere along the way, the Informant’s household decided to adapt the manner and reason that their tradition is performed. Now, their goal is to no longer literally hunt the Wendigo in order to attain long-lasting life, but instead to appreciate nature and go on a family-bonding vacation into the wilderness in order to remember their ancestors.

general

Korean Drinking Etiquette

The Informant is 21 years old, a junior at USC studying Theatre and Narrative Studies, and he’s from San Jose, California.

Him: Usually, within the first few days of a new job, the new employees go out drinking with bosses, who are considered elders. When you drink with an elder in Korea, whether he or she is an employer or simply an older person, you always turn your body away whenever you consume the drink. I saw my cousin not only turn away but also even cover the shot glass with his hand to conceal the fluid entering his mouth. It’s weird to me because it seems that in the culture people drink to bond, and yet there’s this formality that doesn’t seem like it belongs in such an ostensibly casual setting. anyway, learned about this from my dad when he first gave me a sip of his wine when I was maybe a freshman in high school. But sine then, he’s told me that I don’t actually have to turn away whenever I drink with him. it was more just something to keep in mind if I ever find myself having drinks with other Korean adults. And by the way, drinking is a HUGE pastime in the culture, especially among males. I think it has to do with the draft that requires all males past the age of 18 to serve at least 2 years in the military. Somewhere in those two years, the guys basically become alcoholics. So, as they get older, drinking becomes reminiscent of the good ol’ days when you just hung out with your buddies drinking your brains out. It was my dad’s dream come true when I turned 21 and could legally drink with him wherever he went. He’s missed having a drinking buddy. My mom thinks he’s an idiot for it…That was fun! I’m glad I got to share that.

Analysis:

I think it’s clear that when the elders invite the new, younger employees out to drink, it is just another test of whether or not the employee is worthy of working at the company. It’s a final test to see how polite they will be to their bosses, despite the pressures of being in a casual atmosphere. Even though they’ve already been hired, they have to prove their worth in that moment by showing manners to their superiors. I’m left wondering how many Korean homes mimic the Informant’s household where the elders don’t mind if the younger members don’t turn their backs to drink. I’d like to be able to compare a Korean household to a Korean-American household and observe the differences in practices of etiquette.

I also think it’s worth some time to explore why the young men become so involved with alcohol in the military. Is it expected as a part of being a member of the military? Or is it the pressures of training and (perhaps) combat that drive all of the young men to drink? Apparently, they walk away with good memories from their time with alcohol in the military. But, I think it is implied there that once they return to civilian life, they are forced to fit within society’s standards of drinking patterns, meaning that the 2 years they are in the military are their “party” years in some way. This shows why the Informant’s father may have been so excited for his son to be old enough to legally drink.

Contagious
Customs
Game
Gestures
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Post-Joke Toe-Grabbing

The Informant is 21 years old, is a junior at USC studying Screenwriting, and is from Chicago, Illinois.

Me: Okay, so explain what just happened!

Him: Well, we’re all comedians in this house so we like to tell jokes. So we have a lot of joke competitions? It actually started in my dorm with my freshman year roommate. Whenever someone came over and jokes started being told, and mind you, they’re usually SUPER cheesy…just sad jokes…we’d have the guest pick which joke was funniest between me and my roommate. Whoever the guest deemed had told the funnier joke had to have their toes pulled by the losing joker. Don’t ask me how we decided to do that. I think we were pretty drunk and thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world.

Me: So, what do you do now?

Him: Well, now I live with 5 dudes, including my freshman year roommate, so we brought it with us not thinking it would really stick. And now there are ALWAYS people over, so that toe-pulling thing happens all of the time now. It caught on! We’re always just yanking on each others’ feet. It’s embarrassing. Don’t ask me why we do it *laughs*.

Me: Who usually wins?

Him: The person who comes up with the wittiest pun, typically. It’s whoever the guest chooses, also! We don’t really even think about it anymore. The people that come over also know the process now, too, so jokes will be told and someone will  just shout “M*******!” and I have to go pull M*******’s toes for him. Actually, people don’t even have to be over and we’ll just do it between ourselves. It’s rare that I get my toes pulled though *laughs*.

Analysis:

This presents an unique folk gesture by involving competition, humor, and an atypical interaction of body parts. The informant seemed almost embarrassed of his house’s little ritual because of how ridiculous even HE thought it was. I remember when it was first performed I was so confused by the course of events. I looked over at the informant after I deemed him the winner, and he turned red with embarrassment at the little ritual of his toes being pulled. Yet, despite his embarrassment, he clearly enjoyed the ritual in the the ways that it brings him closer to his roommates and friends. This shows that a lot of pride can be created from the establishment of a ritual, despite whatever level of ridiculousness it may involve. It’s this exact reason that we always play pranks on someone when it’s their birthday, why clubs have embarrassing inductions for their new members, and why college seniors always try to pull of the biggest school prank. Though they may be embarrassing at times, these rituals create a self-established sense of pride among those involved.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Underground City – Edinburgh

The Informant is 21 years old, a senior at USC, was raised in Las Vegas, and now her family resides in The Bay Area.

Her: I studied abroad last semester in Edinburgh, Scotland, and before I got there I was told about this urban legend from some people I know. A teacher, my mom’s fiancé, and then one of my friends going to Edinburgh with me all told me about this urban legend that there was an underground city beneath Scotland. Beneath Edinburgh.

Me: So, these were Americans telling you about Scottish urban legends?

Her: Yes! When I was in Edinburgh though I didn’t go on any tours for the underground city or anything. I actually didn’t really see them. No one in Scotland that I talked to really heard about it when I asked them *laughs*. I think there were like cemetery tours and torture tours that would talk about stuff LIKE that, but nothing really on the nose.

Me: So, when you were in Scotland you realized that the underground city wasn’t really an urban legend that Scottish people talked about?

Her: Yeah, exactly. It was like a Scottish legend that Americans had heard about but like wasn’t really true! Or maybe it is! I’ll never know! The same thing happened with the term “water closet” though.

Me: What happened?

Her: Well, I was always told that English people say “water closet” for bathroom. I also heard that they said “loo”. But then when I went to England and I brought it up to my English friends they laughed so hard! They’d never even heard of that word before and thought it was ridiculous. No idea where it came from. I was so confused.

Analysis:

I think this piece is especially unique and informative of how folklore is transferred across and perceived by other cultures. It gives insight to how cultures view one another, and how inaccurate they may be sometimes, bringing about the significance of “emic” and “etic” observations. The difference of opinions between the “emic” culture (Edinburgh and England) and the “etic” culture (America) are striking in this instance in that they cancel one another out. Alone, each of these views are uninteresting, but when combined we get a more complete picture of each of the cultures.

Humor
Legends

Haunted Taxi Ride?

The Informant is 21 years old, a junior at USC studying Theatre and Narrative Studies, and he’s from San Jose, California.

Him: My dad told me a version of that story with the pretty lady hitch-hiking? Do you know what I’m talking about? Ok, so there’s a taxi driver puling a late-night shift one night, he’s driving down an empty street and everything is closed. He sees a pretty woman wave him down and she asks if she can go to the house on top of the mountains. He’s a bit skeptical about it, but she’s so gorgeous and beautiful, he says he’ll take her. Every now and then the driver tries to glance at this woman sitting in the back seat. She’s so beautiful that he can’t help himself. He looks in the rearview mirror and sees nothing except his backseat. He turns around. She’s sitting there smiling at him. So he turns back around front. He tries to take another glance at her in the rearview mirror, and again, he can’t see her reflection, just the reflection of the seats. He turns around to look at her, and, again, she’s just sitting there smiling at him. He turns back around to face front. Finally, one more time he tries to take a look at her in the mirror, but, again, no reflection. He turns around one more time to look at her. She’s sitting there, smiling, and her nose is bleeding!

Me: I don’t get it.

Him: Every time he was looking at her in the rearview mirror, she was bent down picking her nose. And she picked it so much that her nose started bleeding.

Me: Oh my god.

Him: I know, right?

Me: When did your dad tell you this joke?

Him: It was at a family get together or something and he wanted to tell a joke to all of the kids and he knew that we’d start yelling out in the middle of it, “She’s a vampire, duh!” and then he just liked showing us that we were wrong! It was hilarious!

Me: Do you still tell the joke now?

Him: Yeah, I love telling it to people who haven’t heard it because they think it’s gonna go one direction and it just doesn’t. I think I like doing it for the same reasons my dad did. But I tell it to my friends or to break the ice instead of to  little kids.

Analysis:

This example is interesting because it’s a spin-off of the original joke rather than an alternate version of the original joke. It’s intent isn’t to satisfy with a scaring ending, but to throw the audience off the path of the punchline. In a way, this joke is similar to a “catch riddle” in that we are catching the teller in a practical joke. These types of spin-offs are important because they allow us to laugh at ourselves and redefine what it means to tell a scary story. It creates a new genre of minor folklore by walking the line of black (and even toilet) humor.

Legends

Suicide in Ithaca

The Informant is 20 years old, a junior at USC studying Screenwriting, and is from Denver, Colorado.

Him: My dad went to Cornell in Ithaca, NY, and he told this story to my cousins and I when we were kids.

Me: It’s like an urban legend?

Him: Totally. It might be distinct just to this part of the country. Apparently Ithaca has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. In the country? Maybe just in the country. Like, my dad said people actually go here to kill themselves. They have these big gorge-canyon things there. In Ithaca.

So, anyway, my dad heard this from his friends in college when he went to Cornell and said there was a couple that was driving through Ithaca and they stopped for some sight-seeing on a bridge. They got out of their car and went up to the railing and it was really, really foggy. So foggy that suddenly, a man who didn’t see them, and they didn’t know he was behind them, ran between them and jumped off of the railing.

Me: He didn’t see them? Or he purposefully jumped between them?

Him: He didn’t see them because it was so foggy! The fog is important here. That’s a thing! It’s actually a thing! It’s so foggy out there that people don’t see other people sight-seeing when they jump off of these rails into the canyon things! My dad it told it to me and then my friend who goes to Cornell right now also told me she heard it from her orientation advisor and roommate when she was admitted.

Me: When did your dad tell you this?

Him: He told it to us when we were kids when we went camping because it’s like one of the only scary things that he knows. So whenever we told scary stories he’d tell that one because it’s the only one he has in his brain.

Analysis:

I actually found a similar occurrence in Japan in the Aokogahara Forest: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/aokigahara-suicide-forest

It’s the second most popular place where people go to commit suicide (The Golden Gate Bridge tops at #1). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/27/us/suicides-mounting-golden-gate-looks-to-add-a-safety-net.html?_r=0

These places are interesting in that people choose to travel to these locations in order to kill themselves. Some even make treks across the country. It makes me wonder about what in their personal, cultural, or sociological experience makes them want to travel to a “perfect place to die”. It also makes me wonder about the roots of the phenomenon of how suicides appear to others. There are statistics showing that females are more likely to commit “pretty suicides”, (i.e. death by pills, hanging themselves) whereas men are more likely to commit more brutal suicides (i.e. gunshot to head, murder suicides with knives, etc.). I wonder to what extent location factors into that mindset.

Adulthood
Childhood
Contagious
Customs
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Run

The Informant is 20 years old, a junior at USC studying Screenwriting, and is from Denver, Colorado.

Him: Yeah, I come from a big running family. Christmas morning we get up super early and all go on a 5k run together. We’ve always done it. I run with my dad like 2x a week or so whenever I’m home. And I run a 5k about 5 days a week. It’s just habit at this point. Running is a big part of my life and our family’s life.

Me: Do other members of your family still run? How has this tradition changed as you’ve grown up?

Him:  I think my grandparents on my dad’s side are the ones who started it. My aunts and uncles do it too, but not with their kids I don’t think. My dad has always been a runner, and I think my mom just started doing it when they met. I’m not sure how the Christmas Run thing got started though. I don’t even remember NOT doing it. It’s always been a thing for us. It’s changed a little. When we were younger, we’d just run 1 mile or so, but now that we’re older and all still running, we bumped it up a bit. This is BEFORE we open presents by the way. I think that shows how ritualistic it is *laughs*.

Me: I know you’re from Colorado, so it can get pretty cold out there. Do you always go on a run no matter what the weather?

Him: Typically, yeah. It just might be a shorter run. It’s just a habit for us. We can’t NOT go on our Christmas Run! My dad would get sad and it wouldn’t be a proper Christmas *laughs*.

Analysis:

This tradition is interesting because it shows how holidays can differ among the people who celebrate it. Christmas in my household is about staying inside and eating as much as possible. No exercise required. In fact, if you exercise, you’re “doing Christmas wrong” in my house. However, in the Informant’s home, running is such an important factor in their lives that they make sure to fit it in even before opening Christmas presents. Even when they were children. Which tells me that there is a great level of significance and discipline placed on this Christmas morning run. Yet, despite the differences in how each family may celebrate the same holiday, the same intentions hold true. It’s about unity, family bonding time, and creating a sort of happiness among those you love. The different ways families choose to address those intentions will always be different according to each household.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Colorado tends to be a very athletic state. There’s snowboarding, skiing, sledding, running, etc. In Las Vegas (where I’m from), athletics isn’t a big factor at all. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I realized how important physical activity can be in social and familial aspects.

Childhood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
general

St. Anthony Prayer

The Informant is 20 years old, a sophomore B.F.A. actor at USC, and she grew up in Louisiana and Texas.

Her: Well, I learned this from my Mom when I was really little or something. But whenever we can’t find something we say a small, rhyming prayer to St…St…who’s the saint that helps you find things? Oh, wait. Okay. No. Yeah. I think it’s St. Anthony. So, yeah, we’d pray to that guy, St. Anthony. The little thing-a-ma-jig we said was like, “Dear St. Anthony, I hope you’re around. Something is lost and can’t be found.” And then apparently he’d help you find whatever it was that you were looking for! I can’t remember if it always worked, but we always thought it did. My mom learned it from my grandma when she was little and passed it on to my sister Adeline and me. I think Addy still does it a lot.

Me: I was taught a similar prayer growing up! I still use it today, I think it at least brings good luck.

Her: Yeah, that’s the thing. I’m defs not as religious as I was raised to be. My mom made me this little card that I keep in my wallet that has the prayer written on it. Like, I have a super-southern-catholic family from Louisiana and Texas, but I like keeping little things like that with me when I remember them because they remind me of my mom and make me happy. I do the prayer every now and then, but not as often as I used to. I might start doing it again now.

Analysis:

This shows the small ways that religion can help bring families together and remain in a person’s life, even when they no longer consider themselves religious. This prayer was a little activity that the Informant was able to participate in with the females of her family when she was a child. In this way, this prayer became something that she closely associated with the women in her family and will probably always be a bonding factor for them when she looks back on it. The small card that her mother gave her then becomes a folklore object in that it remains in existence after the performance of the folklore has ended.

general

10-Yummy

The Informant is 22 years old, a senior at USC studying Theatre and Narrative Studies, and she’s originally from The Bay Area.

Me: So what is a 10-Yummy?

Her: It’s this tradition we have at PV (Performance Venues) where whenever there’s a shift that has food that the clients will let the staff eat after the event, we radio everyone and say, “10-Yummy!” which basically means, “There’s free food! Come stuff your faces!”

Me: How did it start?

Her: It was like 3 summers ago my friend Morgan who is a stage manager for PV liked to play on the radios a lot saying like “10-4″ and “What’s your 10-20?” and stuff like that. Codes that we never use. But she wanted to sound badass. And then some people started getting sad whenever they’d miss out on the free food after an event, so we’d use a radio to let everyone know. But we wanted to come up with a kind of legit code so that we wouldn’t sound like idiots over the radio, and Morgan came up with “10-Yummy”.

Me: Who taught it to you?

Her: Morgan did. It’s like a huge tradition now. Whenever there’s a 10-Yummy all of PV that is working at the time meets up in one big place and we all eat leftover food together and make a mess. It’s great. Even if you’re not even hungry you have to go to a 10-Yummy.

Analysis:

This is an example of company folklore that manifests out of a professional environment while still aiding in the establishment of a company culture, proving that even in a bureaucratic  setting, folklore can still be created and found. In this sense, a type of folk phrasing developed out of the attempt to include everyone in a tradition that was already growing in popularity, but had yet to be tokened, or titled. The phrase “10-Yummy” developed out of the need for a name to the already growing ritual and has now become a placard for the Performance Venues company as a whole.

general

Trojan CrossFit – Snatch

The Informant is 29 years old, grew up in a military family, and studied at USC and UCLA. He’s very close to his Japanese culture.

Me: What is the phrase?

Him: “Face down, ass up, that’s the way we don’t do snatches.”

Me: And what is this based off of? Why do you use it?

Him: It’s based off of that one song where the chorus is like “Face down, ass up, that’s the way we like to fuck”. I don’t remember who it’s by. B*** started it. He knows the song. We yell it to remind our athletes how to have proper form when they do an olympic lift. The snatch. And it’s supposed to make them laugh.

Me: How did it start?

Him: B*** was being extra goofy during training and one of our athletes kept putting their butt up instead of back and they were looking down instead of ahead of them. And B*** just busted out this phrase and everyone started laughing. And it stuck. Now, whenever we see people with bad form, we yell the first half of the phrase and they’re supposed to answer with the second half.

Me: And is this phrase unique to this gym?

Him: I know that G has started bringing it to another gym in Hollywood because he thought it was so hilarious. So it’s starting to spread. We basically do it during every Oly Lifting class and we’ve actually got some T-shirts we’re getting designed with the phrase on them now.

Analysis:

This shows explicitly the ways in which folklore can just occur in the moment in any context. There doesn’t always need to be any sort of set-up that calls for folklore to start, it can just sort of appear out of thin air. In this instance, it proved relevant to pop culture, so that it could be relatable on a wide scale, and also serves to improve athletic training by reminding the athletes to obtain proper form in their weightlifting. In addition, it proves hilarious because it serves the same purpose of a “catch riddle” by leading the listener down a certain path, only to reveal that the teller has purposefully misguided them and reveals a twist in the punchline. Because of this great formula that this folklore serves, it has risen so much in popularity in one gym that it has started in another. And, they’re even making T-shirts with the phrase on it!

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